Brenda White Vaughn has served as general manager of the Chesterfield County Fair since 2014.
It’s Friday afternoon, Aug. 19, a week before the start of the 111th Chesterfield County Fair, and Brenda White Vaughn still has, oh, about a million things to do before workers begin setting up at the county fairgrounds the following day.
As general manager and the lone paid employee of the Chesterfield County Fair Association, the local nonprofit that operates the annual event, White Vaughn has been the go-to person for its every question, decision and logistical issue since 2014.
While she’s already well into a grueling run of 12-hour workdays, White Vaughn still compares opening day to “waking up on Christmas morning and seeing all the presents under the tree.”
“It’s always amazing to me: No matter how many years you’ve been here, it always gets bigger and brighter,” she said, seeking a few moments of shelter from Virginia’s typical late-summer heat in her office, a converted storage shed with a “Queen Bee” sign on the door.
The Chesterfield County Fair kicks off at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26 and continues through Saturday, Sept. 3 at the county fairgrounds, 10300 Courthouse Road, Chesterfield VA 23832.
Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for people over the age of 60, $5 for kids between the ages of 4 and 12, and free for kids under 3. That covers all shows and entertainment, but food, drinks and rides are extra. Ride tickets cost $1.75 apiece, or you can purchase a daily wristband (unlimited rides) for $27 Monday through Friday and $30 on Saturday and Sunday.
First held in October 1911, the fair hasn’t always been such a massive operation. At its original location at the Chesterfield County government complex near Mimms Loop and Lori Road, it was conceived as an opportunity for local farmers to come together and display the fruits of their labor.
In those early days, families would travel there by horse and buggy to socialize with distant neighbors and partake in games and competitions. As the event grew in popularity, more attractions were added and its footprint expanded.
Eventually, the space was deemed insufficient, and in 1989, the fair moved just over a mile down the road to its current location across from L.C. Bird High School.
The fair still has an agricultural component, but its beating heart is a bustling midway lined with rides and games, scores of vendors selling food, goods and services, and an entertainment lineup that White Vaughn said offers “something for all age groups.”
“This isn’t your grandma’s 1950s fair because Chesterfield isn’t an agricultural county anymore,” she added. “You can’t forget your roots, but you have to have a good mix of new and old to appeal to everyone.”
What’s new for this year? How about an axe-throwing area; mobile escape room; “Gator Boys” star Jimmy Riffle and his road show, “Scales, Tails and Teeth”; Danny Grant’s “Cowboy Circus,” an interactive experience in which kids can practice roping and other cowboy duties; and a mobile dairy classroom where you can learn to milk a live cow. There also are several new musical acts.
For the first time, on Aug. 30, the fair will host International Day, with special entertainment that celebrates Chesterfield’s diversity and growing multicultural community.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also is scheduled to serve as grand marshal of the grand parade on Aug. 30.
Shuttered in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fair set a new gate record last year and White Vaughn is hoping for even better turnout in 2022.
“It’s a great fair,” she said. “As long as Mother Nature is our friend, we’re good to go.”